How to Have a Thicker Skin for Negative Feedback

Like this on Facebook

Everyone agrees that it’s a smart practice to ask for feedback. Don’t walk through life with blinders on. Show them that you’re proactive. Assume that you always have room to grow.

But how do we actually get up the gumption to ask for criticism when deep down, we don’t want to hear the answer in any shape or form? After all, you don’t have to be having a brutal week to feel vulnerable to criticism. Many people already have a “glass-half-empty” picture of themselves—which makes hard feedback even easier to internalize…and therefore avoid. A biting appraisal stings because it highlights a weakness, but also because it usually clashes with the self-identity we’ve constructed.

And yet, when we get in the practice of hearing—and then surviving—feedback, it loses some power. It becomes one data point worth attention, not a reason to stew for a week in wretched self loathing. As you work to thicken your own skin, try on the four strategies below. In using them, you’ll find that you’re better at regulating your emotions and most important, you become more of an active participant in the negative feedback process.

Use “Compassionate Detachment”: Therapists have long used compassionate detachment to empathize with clients, without taking on clients’ emotions as their own. They do this by distancing themselves slightly from the outcome of a story, a behavior or a pattern. You can use this technique too. By looking at feedback with curiosity, we see it for what it really is. Separate your extreme emotions from the feedback by telling yourself, “I can only see the feedback accurately if I quiet the noise.” You’ll be surprised how this technique can allow you to have further “a-ha” moments originating from the feedback.

Don’t Isolate Yourself: Recently I facilitated a series of negotiating workshops for a large Fortune 50 client. When I asked participants about how they recovered from a failed negotiation, one participant noted that she went right to her car, had a long cry and then privately ruminated for 2 weeks about the failure. Yet another participant explained that she talked to some trusted advisors after her negotiation-gone-wrong, one of whom told her that rejections like this happened regularly and not to take it to heart. Not surprisingly, that last participant was able to bounce back quickly from her perceived failure. Borrow from this example! When you get in the habit of processing hard moments with those more experienced than you, you give yourself the gift of support. In turn, your allies end up normalizing your experience.

Demote Your Inner Perfectionist: For some of us active and recovering perfectionists, we await feedback holding out hope that if we did things perfectly, we will hear only glowing praise. And yet, for most people (even the brightest and most capable) this happens almost never. I’d argue that perfectionism actually steers us away from the very hard-hitting feedback that’s most instructive. Think about it. When others get the sense that you’re a perfectionist, it handicaps easy, open dialogue. A better approach? Thank your perfectionist for her concern, and then explain that progress is almost always made in a jagged, up and down trajectory—rarely is it perfectly linear.

Have A Go-To Mantra: Sometimes the right words can help open us up just enough to change our behavior. Think of a short phrase that challenges you to accept feedback but feels empowering and puts you in control. You might consider: “I’ll stay open,” “I’m stronger than my performance on one task” or “I tolerate and gain from tough feedback.” Yet another mantra states, “I trust my own instincts about which feedback to act on.” The reasons mantras work are that they strike a chord in us, are easy to remember and repeat, and quickly reinforce a needed message—usually at a deep level.

How do you toughen up when you want to solicit feedback but feel worried about the result? What would you advise against doing?

This article appeared in Forbes on October 22, 2014.

Selena Rezvani

Selena Rezvani is a recognized consultant, speaker and author on women and leadership.  A seasoned human capital consultant, Selena uses workplace culture assessments to help corporate clients be more inclusive and welcoming to women.  She’s also the author of two leadership books targeted at professional women – Pushback: How Smart Women Ask—and Stand Up—for What They Want (Jossey-Bass, 2012) and The Next Generation of Women Leaders (Praeger, 2009). Selena has been featured in the LA Times, Oprah.com, Todayshow.com, Forbes, and wrote an award-winning column on women for The Washington Post.

Recommended

The Secret to Better Work: Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time

“The number of hours in a day is fixed, but the quantity and quality of energy available to us is not,” say Tony Schwartz and ...

Why You Need to Stop Working Long Hours

If it’s 10 pm and you’re still at the office, are you the ideal employee? Not exactly. Putting in extra hours may make you feel ...

Know When to Say "No"

The truth is too many people are afraid to say “no” in the workplace, especially to those in more senior positions. Many individuals are ‘people ...

Ready to lead?

We'll show you how!
Get email updates from Be Leaderly.

Our mission is to provide the career strategies that help you lead, climb and thrive as a rising woman of influence.

Four Types of Questions To Ask Your Mentor

Have conversations with your mentor gotten a bit repetitive lately? Perhaps you approached ...

5 Ways to be a Leader, Not a Manager

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a manager and a leader? ...

How to Shut Down a Colleague Who Takes Credit for Your Work

Has this ever happened to you? You’re in a meeting and the unthinkable ...

15 Songs for Your Leadership Playlist

It was one of those conference moments I’ll never forget: Carly Fiorina had ...

10 Killer Leadership Skills: The Great Differentiators?

Last week at Hallmark I hosted a couple gentlemen from a partner company. ...

Influencing Without Authority—Using Your Six Sources of Influence

I am in the difficult situation of being unofficial project lead, responsible for ...

11 Leadership Lessons Learned

Here are 11 lessons I’ve learned about leadership—mostly from much-admired colleagues, and just ...

6 Critical Missteps That Hurt Your Career Advancement

Let’s face it: it isn’t easy to break out and establish yourself as ...

9 Traits of Exceptional Leaders

Truly great leaders are hard to come by, but it seems everyone thinks ...

Nine Qualities of Female Leaders Who Get Beyond the Glass Ceiling

I’m frequently asked to speak about women in law and specifically the issue ...

5 Things Women Leaders Should Stop Doing. TODAY.

Over the last couple years, I’ve had a front row seat to career ...

8 Types of Courage for Aspiring Leaders

“The truth is that courage resides within you; you must simply decide to ...

4 Characteristics of Leaders Who Get Hired and Promoted

Imagine if you had the opportunity to sit down with a senior executive ...

25 Questions to Ask a Mentor

A few years ago, around the time when I was launching this blog, ...

Want to be Excited on Monday Morning? Be an Intrapreneur.
Want to be Excited on Monday Morning? Be an Intrapreneur.

“While it’s true that every company needs an entrepreneur to get it under way, healthy

4 Hidden Ways to Take Risks — And Propel Your Career Forward
4 Hidden Ways to Take Risks — And Propel Your Career Forward

“Have big dreams. You will grow into them.” — Unknown If you’re looking for a

How to Have a Thicker Skin for Negative Feedback
How to Have a Thicker Skin for Negative Feedback

Everyone agrees that it’s a smart practice to ask for feedback. Don’t walk through life with

Leaderly Quote: Don’t be a “lone ranger.”
Leaderly Quote: Don’t be a “lone ranger.”

“How do you know when you’re breaking too many rules?” I asked this question of

Learn to Become a Fierce Negotiator With Our Latest Infographic!
Learn to Become a Fierce Negotiator With Our Latest Infographic!

We hope you love our visual take on tips to help you negotiate like a

4 Sloppy Speech Habits that Undermine Your Influence
4 Sloppy Speech Habits that Undermine Your Influence

At what point would you stop listening to a speaker who opens with: “So, OK,

Asking for a Raise in the Age of #MeToo
Asking for a Raise in the Age of #MeToo

Thinking of asking for a raise? “The old negotiating adage still rings true: if you

Leaderly Quote: Demote your inner perfectionist
Leaderly Quote: Demote your inner perfectionist

For some of us active and recovering perfectionists, we await feedback holding out hope that if

The Top 5 Most-Read Articles this Month
The Top 5 Most-Read Articles this Month

Here are the top articles that other emerging leaders have been reading at BeLeaderly.com this month. Do

3 Ways to be a Strategist, Not a Tactician
3 Ways to be a Strategist, Not a Tactician

“You need to be more strategic.” Many aspiring leaders have heard this type of feedback

Be Leaderly Spotlight: Selena Rezvani
Be Leaderly Spotlight: Selena Rezvani

We’re thrilled to welcome Selena Rezvani to the Be Leaderly team, and to her new role

Emerging Leader Spotlight: Erin Lo
Emerging Leader Spotlight: Erin Lo

Every month we ask an emerging leader we admire to share what she is doing

How to Go After Awards and Recognition (and Win)
How to Go After Awards and Recognition (and Win)

Just last week, a Director at a well-regarded business school explained to me that she

Leaderly Quote: Don’t let fear steal your dreams
Leaderly Quote: Don’t let fear steal your dreams

“Don’t let fear steal your dreams.” — Sabina Nawaz

At Be Leaderly, our mission is a simple one: To provide proven career strategies that help you lead, climb, and thrive as a rising woman of influence. If you’re ready to lead, we’re here to support and inspire you.

Subscribe

captcha

PRIVACY

We will never share, rent, or sell your personal information or email address.
Copyright 2018, Be Leaderly